6 April 2015

When I was young

My childhood years

This genea-meme is a set of questions or prompts about childhood. These questions were proposed by Alona who says:
Like it or not, life today is a whole lot different from when we grew up. And as genealogists and family historians, we are mindful of recording our own history, yet so often it doesn’t happen, and sits in the “I must do that” list.
This has certainly sent me down my memory's lane. I look forward to reading responses from some of my siblings too. As I am the youngest of seven their memories and mine are sure to differ.
**Hint, hint - write this up for your children and grandchildren!**

1. Do you (or your parents) have any memorabilia from when you were a baby? (ie. baby book, lock of hair, first shoes etc.)
This is the earliest photo I have of me at 12 months old.
Carmel at 18 months outside old farm house
2. Do you know if you were named after anyone?

My parents liked to choose saints' names and as I was born close to the Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, that could have influenced their choice. One of my father's first cousins was named Carmel and she was nursing in the small country hospital where I was born so that may also have been a factor in name choice. I have no idea why my second name is Rosemary.

3. Do you know of any other names your parents might have named you?

I am unaware of any other names they might have chosen.

4. What is your earliest memory?

My earliest memory is of sitting on a step between the dining room and the kitchen in the old farmhouse nursing my Teddy Bear which I had just received as a birthday present. I think I was two or three years old.

5. Did your parent/s (or older siblings) read, sing or tell stories to you? Do you remember any of these?
  • My life was rich with fairy tales and nursery rhymes, As well as my mother I had older sisters and a brother and so never lacked for a story.  Kindergarten of the Air each morning at about 9 am, was a radio show with songs and stories that entertained me once my siblings had gone to school. Later on I loved to read the Enid Blyton stories, the Secret Seven and Famous Five stories were favourites.
  • My mother loved to sing. Some old favourites were Daisy, daisy... a bicycle built for twoGalway BayA long way to Tipperary and many others from the thirties and forties. She had played piano for local dances when she was younger and knew a wide range of songs. Then there were the hymns often sung in the car on the way to Mass. Particular favourites were Silent night and Adeste fideles I think we even knew the words in Latin!
6. When you were young, do you remember what it was that you wanted to grow up to be?

I always wanted to be a school teacher. Dad had painted a piece of fibro black and fixed it to an outside wall. We had some white chalk so I loved to "play school."
7. Did you have a favourite teacher at school?

I loved my first teacher - Miss Thomas. I had her for grades 1-3 as it was a very small 2 teacher school. In high school years I greatly admired my final year English teacher Sister Mary Xavier. She was very well read and opened my horizons to some wonderful literature.

8. How did you get to school?
  • In primary years we walked up the farm track then onto the Main North Road where the yellow school bus from Hamley Bridge would stop at "Horgan's corner" to collect us. It would then drop us in Tarlee and continue on its way to Riverton with the high school kids.
  • In high school years when I was at boarding school, we caught the train to Adelaide then a bus out to the school. "Free weekends" when we could go home were once a term. Otherwise it was simply a matter of going down the stairs from the dormitories to the refectory to eat then across the yard to school.

Stairs  leading to dormitories on top floor,
classrooms middle floor, refectory ground floor.  Cabra c.1965
9. What games did playtime involve?

In primary school we played "All over, red rover"  and "Brandy" where the aim was to hit the people in the middle with a tennis ball. Hide and seek was also popular.

10. Did you have a cubby house?

Near the house there was a large stand of pepper trees, we built all sorts of pretend cubbies under those trees. We also constructed cubbies in our bedrooms too.

11. What was something you remember from an early family holiday?

We were packed like sardines in our Holden for a trip to the beach. Four in the front, Dad driving, my brother next to him then myself and Mum. In the back were the other five girls, three got to sit back and two forward between the others. No seat belts in those days, sticky hot seats too.

The journey to the beach house at Christies Beach, south of Adelaide took a long time and no doubt much patience on my parents' part. It was a real treat to go to the beach but without sunburn cream or knowledge of its dangers, I do remember suffering from huge blisters on my back.

12. What is a memory from one of your childhood birthdays or Christmas?

Christmas shopping was a huge adventure. We did not have much to spend but would go to Coles in Gawler and trawl the aisles to find gifts for all the siblings. It was tricky to make sure that the others did not see what you were buying. This might only be a packet of Lifesavers which would then be lovingly wrapped and labelled to put under the live Christmas tree that Dad would cut from the scrub paddock. I remember furtively shaking all the parcels to try and work out what they might contain. 6 siblings, 2 parents and Uncle Joe - there were a lot of presents under our tree.

Birthdays always meant a two tiered sponge cake light as air, cooked by Mum. This was filled with a smear of homemade jam and freshly whipped cream, real cream from our cow's milk. Mmm, delicious!

13. What childhood injuries do you remember?
  • My sisters and I shared a bike. One day I set out to ride it up to the top gate, quite a rough gravelly road. There was a dip on the way with larger chunks of gravel and I had a spill. Oh, those sore toes, (no shoes on) and gravel rash knees. 
  • The woodshed was cut from an old tank, so the top of the door had a raw edge. We were forbidden from climbing on top of the shed/tank, but large trees with overhanging branches grew obligingly near. One day as I heard one of my parents approaching I hurriedly swung myself down by grabbing the top of the said door. The cuts across both of my hands were punishment enough for me not to do it again.
  • Leftover scraps were fed to the farm dogs but sometimes bones were not fully consumed. I remember the day I jumped off the veranda onto a lamb chop bone that went right into the arch of my foot.
  • In year 7 I tripped, fell and broke my arm at school.
14. What was your first pet?

We had a lot of cats to keep the mice at bay. The first cat that "belonged" to me was Norman, a large grey cat who would happily be carried wrapped around my neck. It is possible that I had a pet lamb before Norman, as every year there were motherless lambs that we named and bottle fed.
Carmel, age about 11, near wood heap with the latest dog
Dressed for Mass on Sundays, with Holden outside the gate
I'm the youngest in photo. We had lots of pets.
15. Did your grandparents, or older relatives tell you stories of “when I was young ..?”

I had very little to do with older relatives other than one uncle as we lived on a farm not near relatives. My only living grandmother visited maybe once or twice a year at the most, as she also lived what was then considered a long distance away. My parents did tell stories of their courtship riding in the buggy, and Dad and Uncle Joe told of riding the horse to school.

16. What was entertainment when you were young?

Singing around the piano, playing Scrabble and Monoploy, playing cards and reading.

17. Do you remember what it was it like when your family got a new fangled invention? (ie. telephone, TV, VCR, microwave, computer?) Did your family have a TV? Was it b&w or colour? How many channels did you get?

I was in Year 7 at primary school when we got our first black and white TV and was very keen to show the two sisters nearest to me in age, when they came home from boarding school. I think there were three channels, ABC, Channel Nine and Channel Seven.

18. Did your family move house when you were young? Do you remember it?
  • My parents had a new house built on the farm. We were very excited to be getting new bedrooms and a kitchen big enough to accommodate a large family. 
  • The toilet with the push down lever was a novelty compared to the old one with the pull chain. 
  • No longer did we have to collect bark chips to fire up the wood heater for bathwater as there was a hot water system installed.
  • I shared a bedroom with two sisters and we liked being able to hold hands across the space between the beds when it was dark and scary on windy winter's nights.
At the front of our new house in June 1960 with sisters and some pets.
Carmel seated in the middle.
19. Was your family involved in any natural disasters happening during your childhood (ie.fire, flood, cyclone, earthquake etc) 

My father, brother and uncle were often called out to fight fires. In early years Dad and Uncle Joe would drench wheat bags to put over their heads to protect them from fire. They beat the grass fires with wet bags and knapsacks. I was lucky to never have been involved.

20. Is there any particular music that when you hear it, sparks a childhood memory? 

Danny Boy was one of my mother's favourite songs so it makes me think of her in her apron doing housework but singing at the same time.

21. What is something that an older family member taught you to do? 

My mother taught me to sew, cook, knit and crochet and I imagine I had a lot of help from my siblings with all of those things. My brother taught me about humour in so many ways. In university years I lived with a sister who really taught me how to sew.

22. What are brands that you remember from when you were a kid? 
  • CSR sugar - there was usually a sack on the floor in the pantry
  • Keens - curry and mustard powders
  • Golden Circle beetroot
  • Blu-bags and Velvet soap
  • Singer sewing machines
  • Massey Ferguson tractors
  • Holden - the only cars I knew
23. Did you used to collect anything? (ie. rocks, shells, stickers … etc.) 

At one stage I had a stamp collection but making doll's clothes was more interesting.

Autograph books were popular and I collected the autographs of friends and family. Mine had pastel coloured pages and was about 5 x 3 ins. I seem to remember a brown cover like this one pictured.

24. Share your favourite childhood memory.

So many memories, I had a very happy childhood. Winter's nights, protected from the cold and wet, we did like to sit around the open fire in the lounge room knitting or playing Scrabble.

Thanks Alona for the prompts.

This post first appeared on Earlier Years at http://earlieryears.blogspot.com/2015/04/when-i-was-young.html


  1. Carmel ... what an excellent post. Thanks for sharing a little of your childhood. It sounds like growing up on the farm was such fun. I grew up in the Adelaide Hills, and spent a lot of time at my grandparents farms, and they are memories I treasure. Something I didn't write in my own post, was that when we moved house, we moved to one that didn't have hot water, or an inside loo ... so I know all about the wood chip water heater, and the chain toilet. :-)

    1. Thanks for the prompts, this was fun to do and made me get back to scanning photos. I've sent the prompts via email to my siblings, hoping at least one of them will respond. We certainly had no reason to be bored as children, there was plenty to do including lots of chores. In the outside loo, we used old phone books for toilet paper :-)

  2. Beautiful memories here Carmel! And they prompted more in me. How could I forget my mother's cakes she baked for my birthdays? They were so rich. I've never tasted any like them since. Loved the photo of you girls before mass and the story about you holding hands on windy scary nights.

    1. Thanks Alex, reading lots of the posts reminded me of other things too.

  3. Read this the other day and enjoyed the difference and the things that are the same about our childhoods.

  4. Thanks for visiting and for the other comments too! :)

  5. I enjoyed this topic and your memories and I will be working on one of mine with a link back to yours. I have some memories in other stories but it will be nice to have them all in one story. Thanks for the idea.


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